for the Siskiyou Hiker
by Luke Brandy, volunteer
Want to help out on the Wagner Butte Trail? Just email email@example.com and we’ll let you know next time we’re heading out.
17 OCTOBER 2017 | TALENT, ORE. — Saturday we had a hardy group of volunteers for the Wagner Butte brush out. I was the youngest of the group and could barely keep up.
The cool morning began with a safety briefing and a review of maps, Leave No Trace practices, and expected work load. Almost immediately, the crew saw a large owl fly across a frosty sage brush meadow and land in a tree, watching them intently.
I hope this is a good omen, I muttered.
Wagner Butte Trail #972 needs quite a bit of work, and provides a crucial historical link between the Talent and Ashland watershed. The trail was suffering from young firs and brush which fully encroached upon sections of the trail prism.
The crew got even more work done than I had hoped for, and I plan to return either later this fall or next spring to touch up missed areas, brush out the section between the Wagner Glade/Split Rock Jct and the lookout, and cut logs out of the trail.
Several areas are suffering from social trail re-routes around large dead fir logs. The tread will have to be re-established to bring it back into a state of sustainability and to protect against erosion.
The competition-based tree mortality is ongoing due to drought stress and tree density, so the logs will continue to pile up until Siskiyou Mountain Club can return and revive this glorious trail.
Wagner Butte is named after an early settler and Talent resident from the 1850s, Jacob Wagner, who operated a flour mill in Ashland. He very well may have been the first person to live in Talent and commute to Ashland for work. The trail crosses the Sheep Creek landslide, which occurred in 1983 and now provides excellent meadow habitat and mammoth elderberry bushes.
Many groups of hikers, including a group of hunters, were encountered along the trail.
All the hikers we met expressed appreciation for the work we were doing. Hiker Ted Scotchman from the Portland area decided to hike up to the Wagner Butte lookout to soak in the smoke-free views during a visit to the area to see family.
“I ripped my jacket just pushing brush out of the way, I thought I was lost until I heard your crew sawing and laughing,” says Scotchman.
I offered some kind words, and a slice of the chocolate chip candied ginger banana bread I made and brought along for the crew. Two hikers training to do the PCT next year strolled by.
The sage meadows were sublime.
The crew soaked in the crisp clear blue sky, the warm buttery autumn sunlight, and the deliriously spectacular views of the Siskiyou Crest. It was a successful trip and a wonderful day to feel the exhilaration and satisfaction of improving hiking opportunities on public lands.
Luke Brandy is a professional volunteer. He works as a forester for pay.